inflight fire that led to the Sept. 2, 1998, crash of Swissair
Flight 111, and deaths of 229 people on board, likely started with
electrical arcing "involving one or more wires," according to the
final accident report released last week by the Transportation
Safety Board of Canada.
TSB investigators believe the arcing was associated with inflight
entertainment network wires, but cannot be certain because other
wiring in the immediate area could not be identified.
The arcing ignited the metallized polyethylene terephthalate
material covering thermal acoustical insulation blankets above the
right rear cockpit. Inadequate certification standards for material
flammability allowed for use of materials that could ignite, sustain
or propagate the fire, according to the TSB.
The Flight 111 crew's ability to detect the fire and identify its
source was severely limited, as was their ability to combat it. No
smoke/fire detection and suppression devices were located near the
source of the fire, which was in an inaccessible area. In addition,
the crew had no firefighting procedures to put into play;
regulations in effect at the time did not require such a plan.
Failed end caps on air conditioning ducts fed a steady supply of
air to the fire as aircraft primary flight displays failed and heat,
smoke and fumes filled the cockpit. Crew loss of spatial orientation
resulted in the aircraft's collision with water, 5 naut. mi.
southwest of Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.
According to TSB Chairman Camille Theriault, the Flight 111
inquiry was "the largest, most complex aviation safety
investigation" the board has undertaken. It yielded 23 safety
recommendations, including nine in the final report. The latest
include improving the testing and flammability standards of
in-service thermal acoustical insulation materials and--as far as
aircraft electrical system is concerned--requiring additional steps
in the certification of add-on systems.
İMarch 31, 2003 The McGraw-Hill
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